Archive for the ‘apple’ Category

You know you are the design leader when…

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

I have a MacBook Pro. Since I got it I have realized how often the machine’s image is used in ads promoting web sites, software, etc. Even if it’s software that runs only on Windows! [Keep your eyes open when you're reading a magazine, and you'll see the MacBook Pro's distinctive features--silver case, elongated oval button, CD slot.]

Similarly, if you have a mobile web application, you include an iPhone in the advertisement, like this one here:

So this is the definition of design leadership. When your product is used as background to feature another product, you’re it. And right now in consumer electronics and PCs, that’s Apple.

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iPhone data price complaints off base

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Now I’m not a fan of megalithic wireless operators. But the criticism of AT&T’s pricing plan for the new iPhone 3G, especially the monthly cost for unlimited data, is missing the point.

The complaint, lodged by Walt Mossberg and others, goes something like this: “Yes, the new iPhone costs $200 less, but the unlimited data package costs $10 more per month. So after a contract of two years, you’ll be out $40 compared to the first iPhone.”

But the point is this. We are talking about the iPhone 3G. Its data rates are about three times faster than the old 2.5G EDGE technology on the first iPhone, according to Mossberg’s tests.

Which means, minute-by-minute, you’ll be getting more data (and thereby more value) from the iPhone 3G.

But there’s more. When available bandwidth jumps, people use far more of the service. New applications become possible. Video, for example, is much more reasonable at 400kbps than at 56kps.

So perhaps the comment should be, “For pretty much the same total cost as the old phone, you get a new phone with three times the power and 10-15 times the application utility. Why not stop by an Apple store and pick one up?”

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Move to Intel chips helped Mac hit the jackpot

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

When the Mac’s move to Intel chips was announced almost three years ago, it seemed like a good, practical move. The PowerPC chip was falling behind Intel, performance-wise, and Apple wanted to leverage Intel’s much larger investment in performance and capability. Intel, for its part, wanted the sexiness of being associated with a cooler brand than Dell, Lenovo, etc.

But the full impact of the processor swap is only now becoming apparent. Yesterday Apple stated that its latest quarterly earnings rose 36% over the same period last year, powered by a 51% increase in Mac sales. The Wall Street Journal buried this telling passage into its article on Apple’s earnings release:

Apple’s computers now also easily run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system, which has helped Apple in a long-running campaign to persuade Windows users to switch to Macs.

Precisely. The Intel processor was a Trojan Horse hiding Windows compatibility–the real value of the switch from PowerPC. Eons ago, people in companies used Macs all the time (it was on my desktop in 1989). Then Windows 3.1 swept through the business world, and Macs retreated to schools, graphic designers and filmmakers.

Now, people who require some Windows programs (because of work or other reasons) can retain that compatibility and get the benefits of OS X and all the interesting applications that run on it.

One of those people is me. The Mac returned to my desktop in August 2007 after a 12-year hiatus. It’s good to be back.

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New iPhone advertisement a remarkable example of storytelling

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

I saw a new iPhone ad this weekend a dozen or more times. In it, an airline pilot tells how by using his iPhone he helped his flight avoid a three-hour weather delay and got his happy passengers to their destination on time.

(You can view the commercial on Apple’s website here. You’ll need Quicktime to view.)

This is an outstanding example of storytelling. There is a simple, compelling, 30-second narrative, related by the person involved. As he talks, he demonstrates how he used the iPhone to check the weather (artfully using many of the distinctive features of the phone, such as the display that reorients itself as you turn the phone and the zoom via touching). I can’t imagine a more concise, effective way of helping people understand just what the phone can do.

It’s the precise opposite of the glitzy iPod ads featuring wildly dancing silhouettes, which look great, but don’t convey much.

Simple, compelling, engaging. Now I want one.

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Friday Haiku #1 – Apple’s Product Announcement

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Two hundred dollars
Off the price of an iPhone.
Early buyers steamed.

When wireless business models collide, customers lose

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Today’s Wall Street Journal nicely profiles the “air war” between wireless carriers and handset makers in a front-page article (link – $$).

The two sides play nice when it comes to plain old cellular service, but with both wireless networks (via 3G technology) and handsets (adopting PC-like features) becoming more advanced, their business models are coming increasingly into conflict.

Nokia, Motorola, BlackBerry, Sony Ericsson, etc., want to create the coolest devices–and these days, cool means the ability to take & share videos, play music, connect via WiFi and display maps. The carriers want applications to be offered as additional subscription services downloaded over their networks. Any application that comes bundled on the device, or that otherwise bypasses their networks, takes money out of their pockets.

An example is the sideloading of music (loading it via the PC, like you do with your iPod, instead of over the wireless network). Such a feature is easily provided on any phone that can play mp3’s, yet the wireless operators frequently ask for it to be disabled, the better for them to sell tracks for $1.99 or $2.99 each, regardless of whether you’ve already paid someone else for that track.

One complication is that we Americans buy phones differently. In other countries, you go into a store, buy a phone costing perhaps $100 to $500, and separately subscribe to service from any carrier. Here, buying the phone and subscribing to the service are intertwined. And untangling them is quite difficult, given that carriers sell the phone at a subsidized price to entice you to sign a 2-year contract for service. Americans are far more likely to pay $0 than $300 for a phone.

Which limits the power of the handset manufacturers to innovate. If Samsung, say, refuses to disable a feature that its carrier partner disapproves of, the carrier will say, “OK, I’ll subsidize LG’s phone instead.” And Samsung will lose that channel.

Caught in the middle are we, the users. We want the best applications, the coolest phones. We also want a cellular bill that’s less than $200 per month.

Hope is on the horizon. One handset manufacturer has the brand name, market power, and image to negotiate an agreement with a carrier that empowers the end-user and enables many features that are not allowed on standard smartphones.

Its name begins with “A” and its phone will be available starting June 29. But it won’t be cheap. Can you guess who it is?

(Photo: “my pda phone” by dreamjay via stock.xchng)

The iPod Shuffle killer app

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

I love my iPod Shuffle. Initially it was because it was cheap. Eventually, though, I grew to love its tininess (about the size of a large postage stamp). It fits anywhere and is as easy to transport as lint in your pocket.

There’s one terrible sacrifice, though. Because there’s no display, you have no idea what song is playing, unless you recognize it. Which can make you crazy, especially if you like the song and want to remember its name and who sings it.

Pondering this limitation during a cross-country flight last week, I had an epiphany. As a favor to all other Shuffle customers, I am presenting this to Apple FREE OF CHARGE so they can fix this problem without paying me a huge royalty.

Update the Shuffle’s software so that, if a certain button combination is pressed (perhaps skip and pause simultaneously), the mp3 tag–the information containing song title, artist, album, etc.–is read aloud. Then return to the song.

It’s a beautiful fix, so beautiful that there must be some fatal flaw in it. But go ahead, Apple. Fix the only thing wrong with the Shuffle, and you’ll sell tens of millions more.

(If you do feel inclined to pay a small honorarium for this insight, I would graciously accept it.)